Resource Guide: Tales of the Low Roads (Eastman Dunn Press): 4.5 Stars
Emile’s ears perked up. “There is only god, and today we tell death one thing: ‘not today?’ It seems
like I have heard that somewhere before, Master.” Dulcimer realized that his pupils was finally
learning some of the lessons that he had tried to impart these last months. “Yes, Emile, I suppose
you’re right. But you know my saying: good bards copy…” Emile responded cheekily. “… and great bards steal?” Dulcimer could not help but grin from ear to ear.
Tales of the Low Roads is a compact and relatively straight-forward resource for alternate death and dying rules. While making player death, overall, less permanent may be a controversial topic, for those who are in favor of it, Tales of the Low Roads offers a well balanced solution. While primarily narrative focused, the unique mechanical consequences still guarantee characters won’t be getting off easy. Overall, I’m looking forward to using this in my campaigns, provided my players are in agreement.
Uniqueness. While the mechanics presented in Tales of the Low Roads are based off other systems, the way they’ve been incorporated to 5e seems brilliant. With 48 different reasons to return from death, combined with the creativity of player and DM, there are nearly endless combinations for the “Low Roads”. When the supplement hits copper, they will be adding a way to use it for character creation, which will increase its applicability. With all these creative elements, it’s possible to use this resource dozens of times and never encounter the same outcome.
Balance. Reading through this book, you can see that a great amount of work went into balancing these options. While most of “heavy lifting” relies on the player to consistently roleplay the potentially drastic change their character underwent (an unrelenting holy zeal, sleep walking, or phantom limbs, for example), the potential mechanical penalties are just serious enough to make a difference, but only in certain situations. What’s more, they can be removed with the custom spells presented in the book. I wish I could go through and roleplay all these Low Roads with my players–I guess I’ll just have to “off” them more so as to see the full effect of this supplement.
Production. The overall production of this piece is well done. There were no noticeable grammatical errors, and the layout was good. The writing throughout was indicative of a distinct style and was generally pleasurable to read. The art, while obviously public domain, was presented in a way that aided the narrative of the work without distracting from it. There was a single formatting problem on the last page, but it is a common rendering error when using homebrewery.
Fluff. The really good, unique content comes after what I personally would consider fluff. While a history of death in roleplaying games is interesting, and the authors come across as eminently knowledgeable, I found myself skimming much of the first few pages. Many readers may like this, I simply did not. I will say, I did really enjoy the part at the end which illustrated, through two example conversations, how a DM and player would implement the Low Roads.
Spells. Tales of the Low Roads comes with three custom spells that are meant to replace canonical spells like true resurrection. It’s logical that, in a setting where people can choose to come back through other means, such spells would complicate one’s travel along the low road. While I don’t object to the idea of these spells (in fact they seem quite well done), for me they were just confusing. I’m not sure if it was the wording of the explanations, or something else, but I left feeling confused as to how these spells would actually play out in a game. It’s possible this is a “personal problem”.
Tales of the Low Road, is a uniquely creative and useful product that was generally a joy to read. I’m giving it 4.5 Stars. It comes Highly Recommended for Experienced DMs/Players and anyone who wants to use Alternate Death Mechanics in their campaign, but if the idea isn’t for you…. well I suppose that’s understandable. Pick it up by clicking the picture below:
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